Fayetteville mayoral candidates' campaigns run on crime-fighting, jobs [The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.]
(Fayetteville Observer (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 22--In a campaign lacking a polarizing issue, the five candidates for Fayetteville mayor are talking about fighting crime and creating jobs and touting their experience and voting records.
Former Councilman Paul Williams, 50, is stumping for the fall election saying he wants to hire 100 new police officers. But his math for supporting such a $10 million increase, without big cuts in city spending, doesn't add up.
Another former councilman, Nat Robertson, 50, is calling for quarterly crime summits, a better appeals process for developers fighting red tape and a renewed look at merging some local government services.
Val Applewhite, 52, a sitting councilwoman, is pushing the need to help local businesses get more city contracts.
A first-time candidate, Kirk deViere, 43, has made tackling the city's high property and violent crime rates his No. 1 issue.
The fifth challenger, Charles Ragan, has run for city offices three times but never won. The 60-year-old said he is offering a "truckload of common sense."
The five are competing in an Oct. 8 nonpartisan primary. Early voting for Fayetteville mayor and Districts 3, 6, 8 and 9 began last week and ends Oct. 5.
The two candidates with the most votes in each contest will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Mayor Tony Chavonne, a four-term incumbent, is not running again. His successor will join a potentially much different council in December.
Fayetteville, with more than 200,000 residents, is the state's sixth-largest city. It has seen fast retail and residential growth but has pockets of poverty and blight. Tens of thousands of homeowners are still simmering over a forced annexation eight years ago. They complain that their property tax bills increased without a measurable improvement in services.
Historically, voter turnout for a Fayetteville primary is abysmal, averaging just 5.5 percent in the past four years. To lure votes, the mayoral candidates are appealing to their bases of support and putting out yard signs, hitting the local radio circuit and attending every community watch meeting they can.
Applewhite is the only one to open a campaign office downtown, where her volunteers can make phone calls to likely voters and prepare door-to-door packets.
Some of the candidates are hurling jabs at one of the perceived front-runners, deViere, who has a big fundraising advantage with more than $42,000 in the bank for his campaign.
DeViere, a real estate broker who owns a marketing firm, said he welcomes the scrutiny.
"I think there is a lot of discussion about me," deViere said. "People want to know who I am. They've seen me working on community projects and in the business community."
Here is a closer look at each mayoral candidate:
Since Applewhite defeated a veteran councilman in 2007, she has easily won re-election twice to District 7. A retired 20-year Air Force veteran with a husband and two children, Applewhite has lobbied for creating a youth council and opening the city's recreation centers for midnight basketball.
She has voted against new apartment complexes in her western Fayetteville district, she said, because they would increase traffic congestion and nearby school crowding.
"I'm not against development," she said. "I'm looking for responsible development."
More recently, Applewhite has clashed with Chavonne over a parks bond package and a local business hiring policy, and she has chided the city manager, Ted Voorhees, in public emails.
Applewhite said she is passionate about her beliefs.
"I ask hard questions," she said. "I study my material."
She said she is ready to lead after six years on the council.
"Your first two years, you are just figuring it out," she said. "It doesn't even matter if you've served before, because the city is different now."
Her detractors said she turned off some voters when she was quick to side with the Police Department over the racial profiling issue in 2011 and when she opposed the council's vote last year to temporarily ban police consent searches at vehicle stops. A judge later overruled the council's moratorium.
She defended her record.
"I'm not going to be influenced by anyone," she said. "I live with my votes, and people respect that."
Applewhite is the only black candidate in the field, running in a city with more registered black voters than white ones. She lives in a voting district in western Fayetteville where three out of four registered voters are black.
"With any campaign, you look to see what your base is," she said. "I represent an African-American community, so that is a natural base for me."
After deViere was honorably discharged from Fort Stewart as an Army captain in 2000, he moved to Fayetteville to work for his former Army company commander, Clarence Briggs, who heads Advanced Internet Technologies.
But deViere has taken some criticism from his political rivals for running a local radio spot last month that seemed to imply that he had served at Fort Bragg.
"Like many, I came here by way of the military," his advertisement said, invoking a familiar catchphrase for transplants to Fayetteville by way of Fort Bragg.
A door-hanging advertisement he began using last week repeats the same message.
DeViere said he stands by the ad about his military background. He said he is proud of his 10 years of service, even though he was never assigned to Fort Bragg.
"I think it's a non-issue," he said. "The only reason I'm in Fayetteville is because I came to work for my previous company commander."
In July, The Fayetteville Observer reported that deViere had failed to pay the state thousands of dollars in sales taxes collected at different times from 2009 to 2012, when he operated two downtown restaurants that he has since either sold or closed.
In June, according to court records, he owed the state $35,902 in sales taxes, penalties and interest. A document in late July showed he paid the state everything he owed and was released from a certificate of tax liability. DeViere has acknowledged mistakes were made by his restaurants in handling sales tax collections.
DeViere said the issue has not become a distraction to his campaign, noting that he has raised more than $65,000 from a wide base of contributors since July.
He said he has not shied away from answering questions about the tax issue.
"I feel I've been very accountable, and I believe that's what people want in their mayor," he said.
DeViere has been busy since making Fayetteville his new home. He is a founding member of Fayetteville Cares, which helps military families, and he founded the Fayetteville Young Professionals club in 2009. He became chairman of the now-Fayetteville Regional Chamber in 2006, and he was a founding board member for the N.C. Partnership for Defense Innovation and its defense-contractor accelerator program.
DeViere said he hopes his community involvement will give him an edge over his rivals with elected experience.
"I've been working hard to help improve this community since moving here," he said.
DeViere said he plans to roll out a three-point action plan for crime reduction soon.
"It's about presence, prevention and partnerships, and that's what you are going to start hearing me talk more and more about," he said.
In the past two mayoral elections, Ragan has failed to get past the primary, but he is undeterred about running again.
"I don't like what's going on downtown," he said. "I don't like being dictated to by 10 people who are making economic decisions that are affecting all of us."
A retired tire maker and co-founder of the anti-annexation group Cumberland County Citizens United, Ragan is not a fan of fundraising, either. At an Arran Lake community watch meeting last week, he said he would not "waste money on yard signs or radio ads."
"If that's what it takes to get elected, then I won't get elected," he told the group.
Ragan said the city does not need to hire more officers, although the new police chief, Harold Medlock, plans to ask the council for more next year. Ragan said Medlock should ramp up clandestine operations in high-crime areas with his existing force.
Ragan said the city should focus on providing basic services, such as public safety and street maintenance, and not float bonds or raise taxes to expand services to try to compete with the state's larger cities.
"It's all about raising taxes for economic development," he said of the city mantra. "Most people I talk to say it's economic devastation, because we have a big bill to pay when you do that."
Two years ago, Robertson lost to Chavonne in the general election, 56 percent to 43 percent. The LabCorp account executive and former four-term councilman hopes the lack of an incumbent will boost his chances this time around.
"The campaign is very similar to last time," he said of his strategy of relying on a shoestring budget and his experience as a councilman.
"I think that I can promote my positive campaign message with the money that we're raising," he said.
He has raised $13,000 so far.
Three of his council terms were for at-large districts in citywide elections in the 1990s, when the council cleaned up downtown.
Robertson, the only registered Republican in the field, wants the council to re-examine the unified development ordinance, which created development regulations when it was adopted in 2010. He said the ordinance is hindering development.
In July, Robertson unveiled a 90-day action plan that included proposals for crime summits, a five-year program to build more splash pads at recreation centers, roundtable discussion with homebuilders and developers, and more regional collaboration
"I'm not a turf-war guy," he said. "Check your egos at the door, and let's do what we've got to do to take care of business for the people."
Williams is campaigning on less government and fewer burdensome rules for businesses and "more economic freedom that will create more jobs."
During his six years on the council, Williams was known for voting against tax increases and favoring business development almost anywhere in town.
Williams said he was not planning to run for mayor until this summer, when the City Council was considering a 1-cent increase in the tax rate per $100 in assessed value toward the hiring of 15 more police officers. The council nixed the proposal in June amid economic uncertainties.
"We shouldn't use hiring more cops as an excuse to raise taxes, if public safety is our No. 1 priority," he said. "We should fund our priorities first."
But crime is a problem, said Williams, who wants to hire 100 more officers, or about a quarter of the police force. He said the city's overall budget grew by $12 million this year, more than enough to cover the new expense.
"Nobody wants to move here when you have one of the highest crime rates," he said.
But his math doesn't work. Half of the $12 million increase was for restricted funds, such as the airport or recycling, which receive no revenues from property taxes. Those accounts cannot be used for public safety.
Williams acknowledged that his 100-officer plan would be difficult but said natural growth in the tax base could make it work.
Williams wants the city to relax some of its building rules, including the requirement that sidewalks be built in residential subdivisions. He said developers and the market should help decide how a neighborhood is planned.
"We are taking away property rights," he said.
He said the standards that did not include sidewalks were deemed sufficient to city officials when they annexed the neighborhoods years ago.
Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3565.
(c)2013 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]